Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 5:11 PM on Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Council passes emergency ordinance for seawall repairs

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer

The Homer City Council passed an emergency ordinance Monday that, for the next 60 days, would fund repairs needed to the seawall by creating a "differential property tax zone" for Ocean Drive Loop residents.

"If it looks like there's imminent danger and I have to make emergency repairs, it will be recouped later on through the service district," said City Manager Walt Wrede.

Ordinance 11-49 passed on a five-to-one vote, with only Bryan Zak voting against it.

A similar ordinance, but permanent rather than for emergencies, was introduced on a four-to-one vote, with only Zak voting against it. A public hearing and final reading of the ordinance will be held at the council's Jan. 23 meeting.

The $1 million, 1,800-foot seawall was built in 2002. A 2006 ordinance approved a special service district, with taxes to be used to fund seawall operations and repairs, but that district was dissolved by the council in 2010.

At Monday's meeting, council member Kevin Hogan asked the property owners present about the distance their homes and businesses were from the seawall to the bluff being eroded by wave action. Some said the distance had decreased to as little as 20 feet or less. Don McNamara said in the 10 years he's lived on Ocean Drive Loop, eight feet of his property has disappeared.

Speaking against the ordinance, Chris Newby pointed to the city's "duty and responsibility."

"If you look at what's exposed and in jeopardy, there's more than my house and my neighbors' houses. There's a very expensive road and a sewer project I'm paying assessments on, water and electrical lines. It's just not our property along the seawall."

Paul Heuper also spoke against the ordinance, saying he knew that "roughly 50 percent" of the property owners for one reason or another had not contributed to the former special service district. Heuper's strongest opposition, however, hinged on a U. S. Army Corps of Engineers permit that "makes it clear it's the city's responsibility."

Property owners Don and Donna Rae Faulkner also expressed opposition to the ordinance.

"We have never asked the city to do work on our private property or to pay for anything," said Donna Rae Faulkner in an email to the council. "We have spent approximately $15,000 on our section of the seawall. We can show you bills and photos if you would like."

Resident Sunny Bourgeois said that however repairs were funded, making those repairs quickly was the most important factor.

"It happens so fast in the wintertime when the storms come in. If a repair is $2,000, you wait a couple of days and all of a sudden it's $10,000," said Bourgeois. "If we are going to have to pay for repairs and you're going to tax us on this, set something in place where we're watching it and it's getting fixed right away. Two or three months costs everyone money."

Marilyn Heuper and Pat Irwin each urged the council to work with property owners to find a long-term solution to repairing the seawall and stopping the erosion of property along its stretch.

"We want to work with you," said Irwin. "You own part of it, too. It's your property. Let's get it done."

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.